Lodi High School and Sa-nguan Ying School Pursue Distance Education

by Free Speech on August 18, 2010

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

By Mark Kohl

Lodi High School and Sa-nguan Ying School in Suphanburi, Thailand have enjoyed an exchange program and sister school relationship that has provided meaningful experiences for students and teachers from both schools.  The exchange program began in April of 2007 with Thai students coming to LHS under the supervision of Mr. Supunnachaht Ploeng-ngoen (Chaht), Director of the English Program and Coordinator of the School Exchange Program for SY School. LHS reciprocated by sending nine students supervised by District Administrator Mike Shimshak, retired Guidance Counselor Curt Hossman and myself in November of 2008.  Last October 10 Thai students and four educators, including Mr. Supannachaht came to Lodi.  This coming November 10 LHS students will travel to Thailand under the supervision of LHS Associate Principal Kim Amidon, Elementary School teacher Brenda Autz and Michelle Meier, Agricultural teacher at LHS and LMS. Each school exchange lasts a duration of three weeks. Having been to Thailand with LHS students, including my son Kyle, as well as hosting teachers from Thailand, I have observed and experienced first-hand what an enriching and life changing experiences the exchange program has provided both teachers and students from both schools.

I returned to Thailand and SY School for three weeks this past July. The purpose of this mission was to begin laying the groundwork for distance education between the two schools. My flight and other expenses were funded by SY School and I stayed with the same host family that graciously hosted me in 2008 and that my family hosted last October.  The first step in preparation of the distance learning concept was to become familiar with the learning styles of Thai students and the most effective way to do this was to teach. I spent my first day observing various classes including English, Social Studies and Science. The following day I assisted with Geography classes by helping students edit their scripts for upcoming projects and presentations.  By mid-week I was preparing and presenting lesson plans for history and geography classes.  In my previous 28 years of teaching I had never taught geography so this was quite a challenge. It took me 5 hours to prepare my first geography lesson  for a 50-minute class period. In many ways it was like being a first-year teacher again.  With one exception, all the classes I taught were in the school’s English Program. SY School has an enrollment of 2600 students in grades 7-12 with approximately 160 in the English Program. Nearly all the students come to class with their own laptop computers and the classrooms are well equipped to accommodate technological needs. Teaching and learning styles are very similar to what teachers and students experience at LHS with teacher directed instruction, varied forms of learning activities as well as projects and presentations.  The only grade level that I did not teach was grade 10.  The most significant adjustment I made  was simplifying my vocabulary and speaking at a slower pace, particularly for grades 7, 8 and 9.  Students in grades 11 and 12 showed  pretty sophisticated English skills as well as an impressive level of confidence in their skills.

In addition to lesson planning and teaching, I also submitted daily reports summarizing my observations and conclusions and how my classroom experiences will apply to our goal of distance education.  I also spoke to the entire SY School Social Studies Department, which was also attended by the school’s curriculum director.  It was a two hour session consisting of questions and answers pertaining to the Social Studies curriculum at LHS, block scheduling, standardized tests, teaching materials, teaching methods, technology and a host of other questions. Through this meeting I came to the conclusion that our schools are much alike and we deal with very similar challenges and issues.

Although there is much to be done to fulfill the goal of distance education, much of the groundwork has been done.  The experience and knowledge that I gained through teaching Thai students and working with several teachers in the English Program will be extremely valuable and this can be shared with other Lodi School District staff that may be interested in participating.  From the technical standpoint, we will be able to teach and conduct distance education classes through Google iChat.  At this stage the objective is for Lodi students to learn the Thai language via distance education.  We are not sure at this point what course or courses will be taught to Thai students. Currently, the greatest need in SY School’s English Program is Math.

It was a wonderful experience to be back Sa-ngun Ying School. I am grateful and humbled to have had this opportunity. It was a very rewarding experience in 2008 but my primary responsibility at that time was to tend the well-being of our students.  This time was much different. I was there to teach and learn begin setting the stage for the next phase of our sister school relationship.

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